Portland’s Homeless Services Center (HSC) received a total of 178 intakes in January, including two dozen homeless individuals from out-of-state, according to the city’s Emergency Shelter Assessment Committee (ESAC) January shelter statistics report.
According to the ESAC report, out of the 178 intakes into the HSC last month, 24 homeless individuals came from out-of-state and 81 came from other Maine town.
Just 71 — less than half — were categorized as Portland residents.
Throughout January the HSC had an average of 240 homeless individuals staying at the shelter per night, with the highest shelter count of 262 recorded on Jan. 23.
While many of the out-of-state intakes at the HSC in January are recorded as having come from nearby states, such as New York (4), Massachusetts (2), Vermont (2), and New Hampshire (2), several of the intakes were reported as being from midwestern, southern and west coast states.
Over a six-month period from August 2023 through January 2024, the HSC took in a total of 20 homeless individuals listed as residents of California, 12 from Arizona, and 11 from Florida.
The 24 out-of-state intakes reported in January was the highest number recorded over the six-month period.
Although ESAC lists “out-of-country” as a possible category for shelter intakes, homeless individuals from other countries who arrive in Portland from another state in the U.S. are counted as out-of-state residents.
“Because people are entering the country in other communities then relocating here, what would be considered out of country intakes are captured as out of state,” the ESAC report states.
The report doesn’t provide further rationale for obscuring the true origins of individuals seeking services.
In November, the Portland City Council approved an emergency declaration to expand the HSC’s capacity by 50 beds over its normal 208-bed capacity, which was estimated to cost the city $568,000 over six months.
At their Feb. 5 meeting, the City Council voted unanimously in favor of extending the emergency declaration until June 3, 2024.
According to the city, the opening of a new 179-bed shelter for single asylum-seeking migrants at 166 Riverside Industrial Parkway on Nov. 30, 2023 allowed the city to make 120 beds available at the HSC — indicating that those 120 shelter beds were being used by migrants.
Portland’s Resettlement Program has provided services to an estimated 4,200 asylum-seeking migrants since January 2020, and last week the City Council accepted a $364,000 grant from MaineHousing to extend the program for 12 months.
“The thinking was that in conjunction with our development of 166 Riverside, along with several other partners, that we would be able to get asylum seekers to Riverside [Parkway] to give them the services and direct attention that they needed, and then be able to serve our circumstantially unhoused individuals at the [HSC], which has all of the services that they need specifically on-site,” Portland City Manager Danielle West said during the Feb. 5 City Council meeting.
The increased availability at the HSC aided the city’s Encampment Crisis Response Team (ECRT) in their effort to relocate homeless individuals from the Harbor View Park encampment into the shelter prior to the city clearing the encampment on Jan. 2.
As of Monday, Feb. 12, the city reports a total of 39 tents citywide — down from over 200 tents reported in September, prior to the city’s sweeps of large encampments at the Marginal Way Park and Ride lot and Harbor View Park.